Hi my name is Kendra McMullan and I have played football since a young age. I have been lucky enough to have played International football with Northern Ireland on many occasions and have been captain of my club team Sion swifts the past 7 years prior to my injury.
My highlight of my playing career was scoring two goals in the Irish cup final win at Windsor park and getting to lift the cup in front of friends and family, just an unbelievable night making history for our club.
As in every sport there comes a risk of many injuries and I definitely have had many over the years, but thankfully most of these didn’t keep me off the pitch for too long.
However 2019 was a year I could never have imagined after many great years of playing the game I loved so much, starting with an ankle sprain early on in the season, then straining my quad muscle and returning to training too early which resulted in a tear in my quad and about 2 months or more off the pitch and doing rehab.
In May 2019 I had my ear ripped open with a stud during a tackle and ended up getting it stitched back together with 13 stitches. BUT as if my season couldn’t have got any worse, 12th August 2019 I experienced the most devastating, painful and dreaded injury of my career. It was a cold Monday night in Belfast away to Glentoran and this fixture was always a big one for us, and the games you loved to play in. If I remember right about 2 minutes before my injury we should of been awarded a penalty, so the game was getting pretty intense, however I remember putting my leg out for a ball at the side line and my knee had hyperextended which was a weird feeling on its own, but as this happened I felt a tackle come right through the side of my leg, I heard the loudest crack and immediate pain along with going into complete shock, I just remember lying on the pitch screaming in complete agony, unable to move but I knew instantly with the sound and the excruciating pain that I was in trouble, this was my season done!!
A few days after the injury I had my MRI which Confirmed I had Ruptured my ACL (the dreaded 3 letters) sprained my MCL, tore both my Medial and Lateral Meniscus, and I had a grade 1 Tibial plateau fracture. I cried for days after hearing the results and although I knew I had done damage, I never wanted to accept it as I was just thinking in my head of the lengthy time I will have to spend off the pitch. Thinking how am I going to cope without football, the game I literally put over everything else in my life for many years!!
So the next stage was then meeting my surgeon Dr Acton, he is incredible and from my first appointment I had immediate trust in him, something which is so important to have when you are going through an injury like this. You need to have trust in who will be working with you through this process. As I had a lot of damage to my knee we had spoke about my options and at the time we thought it was best I did not rush into surgery due to the extent of the damage to my knee, and if we try treating it conservatively it would give me a chance to get my knee over the injury and see what would heal on its own, and also see if I could be a ‘coper’ meaning able to get back to my sport with an ACL deficient knee.
So I started my rehab process with my amazing physio Paddy again someone I put all my trust in to help me through my injury. After months of rehab I did regain all my strength in my injured leg, completed my tests, although my flexion was always an issue, it came to a point where it had just plateaued and it was preventing me from training at my normal intensity, and sessions I would normally do on the pitch.
I met with Dr Acton on what was next for me, I was frustrated as I just wanted my knee normal after months of good rehab, although I did know surgery was always a big possibility from the start. Dr Acton then decided he would do an knee arthroscopy. June 2020 I had this done, and needed a tear in my medial meniscus repaired with sutures. After this surgery I was using crutches and my knee was in a hinge brace which was set at 0-90 to prevent me flexing my knee past this. I also was partial weight bareing for 3 weeks in order to let the stitched meniscus heal.
Unfortunately after the meniscus repair, Dr Acton then discussed with me that when he was inside my knee he found it very unstable, so an ACL reconstruction was going to be needed. I had 6.5 weeks after my first surgery to work on my strength and range of movement. August 2020 I finally got my ACL reconstruction, and my graft used was BPTB (bone patella tendon bone) and from that day I have been working hard on my rehabilitation programme. Thankfully at this stage my gym Foyle Arena was open, and the support I have had through this process from all staff has been amazing, from the reception, to the gym and pool staff, they are friendly, supportive, encouraging and have always been there for anything I have needed.
During the first couple of weeks in my rehab it was all about managing the pain and swelling along with trying to regain as much movement back in the knee as possible. I ended up needing the support of crutches for around 4.5 weeks after surgery, although I was trying to go about the house without any support. For me normalising my gait pattern has been the hardest part.
From 2 weeks post op when I had started to feel a bit stronger in myself, I returned to the gym to add in some upper body training until my knee was ready for progression with my rehab. Once my wounds had fully healed, I also started pool sessions to help with normalising my walking, regain more movement around my knee joint, and help decrease swelling. I went for massage every week with Paul to keep my body feeling good and decrease the build up of scar tissue around my knee, which has been so beneficial throughout my rehab.
Running was a huge goal of mine to get back doing as quick as I could, however coming through an injury like this, nothing can be rushed and patience is key. To help with this, I was lucky to get using the Anti Gravity machine in A.A.H during my physio sessions with Michelle, as this allowed me to run with a certain % of my body weight until the time had come that my knee was strong enough to cope with my full body weight. Everyday required hard work at home and in the gym. I used resistance bands a lot, and worked a lot on my single leg strength, balance and proprioception.
Now I am 5 months 3 weeks post op and from 5 months I have returned to the pitch to complete sessions on speed, agility and quickness along with lots of touches on the ball. Reaching goals like this makes everyday doing your rehab worthwhile. It has been frustrating, it has been hard work, it has taken a lot of patience and it has been a slow and lonely process, but one which has made me a stronger person both mentally and physically.
If I could give any advice on coming through an Injury it would be NEVER GIVE UP!! You will face many obstacles along the way which will challenge you in every way, but I believe if you keep the mind strong and have a positive attitude, then the rest will follow. Surround yourself with good people, I have such great family and friends who have stayed by my side every step of the way, and that I will always be grateful for. Nothing in life is given to us, but everything is earned. Injuries like these you only get one chance to do it right. I know I have put my heart and soul into my recovery every single day, it has been one of the hardest journeys I have faced, but now it is starting to be one of the most rewarding.
Thanks Kendra McMullan.